The Kansas City Chiefs officially wrapped up the offseason training program on Thursday as mandatory minicamp came to a close at the team practice facility. It marked the conclusion of a process that began way back in April and gradually ramped up the intensity level in preparation for the upcoming campaign.
"The guys finished up today. They had a little conditioning thing that we did today, and they did a nice job with it. Now they have some time off, and then they'll be back and ready to hit camp," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "It looks like the team is in good shape now, and it's important that they even ramp it up a little bit more for the long haul of the season."
The offseason program, which was segmented into three phases, started with basic strength and conditioning before incorporating some limited on-field work two weeks later. That led to the onset of "Organized Team Activities," or "OTAs," in late May, which permitted 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills for the first time. These weren't padded practices and there was no "live" contact, but it was the closest Kansas City came to actual football since last season ended. Minicamp then followed, spanning three days and marking the first mandatory training event of the offseason while operating under the rules observed during OTAs.
Every team handles the offseason program differently, but it's well-documented that there's no wasted days under Coach Reid's watch. Since coming to Kansas City in 2013, Reid has utilized the spring and early-summer practices as an opportunity to lay the foundation for what the team will later master during training camp. That was once again the case this time around, and with so many new faces on offense, it has perhaps never been more important.
Reid was asked specifically about the progress made between quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his new-look group of receivers on Thursday, prompting an answer that reflected significant growth.
"I liked what I saw. Do we still have room to grow? Absolutely, but [they're] further ahead than I had anticipated they would be at this point," Reid said. "I like the guys that we brought in – they have a feel for space. I always worry about that just a bit, but they did a nice job. This camp is all passing, we don't run the ball. It gives you a bit of an idea in the passing game of what the guys are capable of [doing]."
That process goes both ways, too, as the Chiefs' new receivers adapt to Mahomes' unique abilities. New addition JuJu Smith-Schuster, for example, was marveling at one of Mahomes' trademark "no-look" throws following Tuesday's practice.
"He did the no-look pass today, and I was just like, 'Wow.' He even got me, and I was just on the sideline," said Smith-Schuster, who went on to describe a no-look pass that Mahomes threw his way during the 2018 Pro Bowl. "That's Patrick for you. That's what I have to expect."
It's something that will continue to take time, and Mahomes and company don't plan on wasting any of it. In fact, while official offseason practices have come to a close, Mahomes plans to invite his offensive playmakers to a series of informal workouts in Texas before training camp begins in late July.
"I'll have some guys down there. Luckily enough, some of those guys already live in Texas, and we'll be working out and throwing," said Mahomes, who organized a similar series of practices in April prior to OTAs. "You don't want to do too much going into training camp, but [we're] just trying to keep everybody fresh and keep everybody working. We'll have some dates down there, and I'm sure we'll have some guys come through."
One player who seemed to benefit from the first iteration of the Texas workouts was wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who consistently impressed during the Chiefs' "First Look" practice last Wednesday – which was open to several hundred Season Ticket Members – with a handful of catches deep down the sideline.
"I think he's done a great job of learning the offense really fast and making plays when his number has been called," said Mahomes when asked about Valdes-Scantling. "[Early in OTAs], we had a couple of guys a little banged up, and he got a lot of reps and made a lot of plays. When you do that and the other guys come back, [I] have that confidence [now] that he can make those plays, so you saw a couple down the sideline where it was one-on-one, and I just threw it up and let him make a play and he did. That's a good thing to see, and hopefully it carries on into training camp and into the season."
The additions of Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling – paired with the departure of former wide receiver Tyreek Hill – has led to plenty of discussion about what the offense may look like in 2022, but the defense also features a slew of new players worth talking about. That includes rookies such as cornerback Trent McDuffie, defensive end George Karlaftis, safety Bryan Cook, linebacker Leo Chenal and cornerback Joshua Williams to name a few, and at least so far, they've held their own in practice.
"[Those] guys are in their playbook and they're taking this thing pretty seriously because they're not making a lot of mistakes out there," said safety Juan Thornhill. "They look like veterans out there with the playbook. They're playing with some of the older guys, and I think they're doing a really good job with it."
Those players, from veterans like Thornhill to rookies such as Karlaftis, will now have some much-deserved time away from the facility over the next several weeks, but just as Mahomes suggested earlier, it doesn't appear that the collective focus of this group will wane during the break.
"I'm going to be training as hard as I can," said Karlaftis when asked about his summer plans. "That's it."